A national conference on mining held recently concluded that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo serves as an instrument of corruption and plunder by foreign mining corporations and declared her ouster as an urgent agenda.
BY FELICISIMO H. MANALANSAN, JR.
For participants to the Second People’s Mining Conference, realizing the ouster of the Macapagal-Arroyo government is not just a strategic objective but a matter of urgent necessity. Arroyo has come to symbolize a mining rush nationwide that primarily benefits transnational mining corporations while leaving the people destitute and displaced as well as killed and ill because of militarization and diseases caused by large-scale foreign mining.
That is why on the first day of the conference held June 11-13, participants did not hesitate to momentarily leave the conference venue on a call to join a rally demanding the president’s ouster a few days after evidence surfaced which confirmed widely held suspicions that the president cheated in last year’s elections.
At the end of the conference, participants formalized their support to calls for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to step down from Malacañang in a declaration which also advances the reorientation of the domestic mining industry through a People’s Mining Policy.
Arroyo’s corruption and plunder
Conference participants were one in condemning Arroyo for being an instrument of corruption and plunder by mining TNCs.
For prioritizing TNCs over Filipinos “who more than foreigners, have the willingness and capability to develop the local mining industry,” Franco Tito, barangay captain of a small-scale mining community in Mt. Diwata, Campostela Valley, said President Arroyo “is more fit to be the president of foreigners and not of Filipinos.”
Tito accused the President and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of deception and corruption in managing gold-rich Mt. Diwata through the Natural Resources Mining Development Corporation (NRMDC), a government-owned corporation. He expressed suspicion that the NRMDC intervened in small-scale mining operations in Mt. Diwata in order to pave the way for the entry of mining TNCs.
“They (national government) are deceiving the people that they came to Mt. Diwata to enforce peace and order only to offer our place to foreign investors in mining roadshows in Manila and abroad,” he said.
Among 23 priority mining projects nationwide which the government through the DENR is offering to foreign investors is the Mt. Diwalwal (also Mt. Diwata) Direct State Gold Utilization project.
Tito said President Arroyo could also be cited for corruption for profiting from small-scale miners in Diwalwal. He said since the NRMDC came to Mt. Diwata in 2001, the national government has been getting 15 percent of the gold ores small miners have been digging up as excise taxes. In exchange, the government promised to build a tailings dam, but up to now no dam has been built.
Tito said a part of the proceeds from the tax goes straight to the president’s social fund which he also said he believes was used during Arroyo’s campaign in the 2004 elections.
Tito estimated the amount that Diwalwal small-scale miners have already paid the NRMDC at P150 million. The NRMDC also undertakes gold mining operations in Diwalwal.